FLORENCE, Ala. (UWA Athletics) - West Alabama came to Braly Stadium Saturday on a two-fold mission – to defeat No. 10 North Alabama and earn some overdue respect, i.e. votes, from those who cast weekly ballots in the NCAA Division II national polls.
West Alabama 38, North Alabama 17.
A crowd of 10,327 witnessed it after enduring a 51-minute delay for lightning.
West Alabama improved to 3-1 on the season, 2-0 in Gulf South Conference play, but has yet to receive a single vote in the national polls. Tiger head coach Brett Gilliland hopes the win over the Lions turns some heads and turns up the respect meter for his team.
"I don't what you have to do to get a vote," Gilliland said. "I think we might have done enough tonight."
The 38 points scored by the Tigers is the most ever scored by UWA in the series for games played in Florence. The most for the Tigers in the 71-year series was 42 in 2012 in a game played in Livingston.
West Alabama built a 10-0 lead on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Harry Satterwhite to Corey Davis with10:23 left in the first quarter and Colin Douglas added a 35-yard field goal four minutes later.
Davis finished with seven receptions for 80 yards, while Douglas kicked five extra points and the field goal.
"We were starting to get in the groove. The offensive line was standing up and Harry was doing his thing and I was just getting open," Davis said. "This was a statement game for us because during warmups they were talking about how we weren't ranked and all."
UNA cut the lead to 10-7 when receiver Dre Hall took the direct snap and raced 12 yards for a touchdown with 3:32 left in the first period.
Chandler Carrera nailed a 33-yard field goal to tie the game at 10-10 with 13:41 left in the half, but the remainder of the second quarter belonged to West Alabama and running back Lakendric Thomas.
Thomas scored on runs of eight and 30 yards to give the Tigers a 24-10 lead at the intermission and finished the game with 87 yards on 10 carries.
"LT was running like a bull," Gilliland said. "We challenged him this week because he is a special player and he answered the bell."
"This was personal for us because they demolished us last year," Thomas said. "Our offensive line did a great job giving me lanes to run in tonight."
It looked as if UWA would maintain its first-half momentum when Taderion Myhand intercepted Rico Bruton on the third play of the third quarter, returning the ball 27 yards into UNA territory before being stripped by Austin Hicks. Delvin Carter recovered to give the football right back to the Lions.
After the lightning delay and an illegal procedure penalty, Bruton connected with Hicks on a 54-yard scoring pass to cut the West Alabama lead to 24-17.
Myhand then picked off Bruton for the second time and returned it to the UNA 39. Three plays later, Thomas broke several tackles on a 30-yard touchdown run, his third of the game, to give UWA a 31-17 lead with 9:38 left in the third.
"The coaches called a great game, the defensive line got penetration and the linebackers made great drops," Myhand said. "All I had to do was stayed locked in and make plays."
The Tigers had UNA stopped on downs on the ensuing possession, but a personal foul on the Lion punt by UWA's Dominique McNealey led not only to a UNA first down, but McNealey's ejection from the game. The UWA defense then rose to the occasion, forcing UNA to turn the ball over on downs with just under five minutes to play in the third quarter.
Tevin Madison picked off Bruton early in the fourth quarter and returned it 64 yards for the Tigers' final touchdown, lifting West Alabama to a 38-17 lead. The interception was Madison's second of the season and the third in the game off Bruton.
North Alabama won the total yardage battle, 355 to 336, but the Tiger defense forced three turnovers and sacked Bruton seven times for minus 57 yards. Dakota Rushing had 2.5 sacks (-18) and Jordan Jones two more (-18). The Tigers recorded 11 tackles for loss.
"Sacks start with the secondary and the linebackers," Rushing said. "They covered well making their offensive line have to hold us out for a long time and they couldn't do it. We came in with a little chip on our shoulder about having just two sacks this year in the first three games."
Terry Samuel led the Tigers with 11 total tackles. Devante Davis and Myhand had eight each. Christian Taylor had 16 tackles for UNA.
Satterwhite, who leads GSC quarterbacks in yards, completions and completion percentage, continued his good work by completing 21-of-30 for 181 yards. He was not intercepted.
Bruton was 10-of-30 for 186 yards and rushed for 61 yards on 22 carries. Hicks had three receptions for 100 yards.
West Alabama returns to Tiger Stadium to host Shorter Saturday at 6 p.m. UNA travels to West Georgia Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff.